CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County School System has offered a slew of new tutoring opportunities to students this school year, but has struggled to find enough teachers to keep up with demand. Now, the school district is looking to college students and retirees to plug the gap.
College students with at least 60 credit hours can earn $20 an hour tutoring students in the Pinellas County School System. In years past, the position has paid teachers $13 to $15 an hour.
The new plan is meant to fill the shortage of available teachers in the Extended Learning Program. Retired educators, and those with expired teaching certificates can also take advantage of the employment opportunity, a point of contention with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. During salary negotiations earlier this year, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers’ Association Kim Black said teachers should be paid their normal hourly wages during the after school tutoring sessions, which can be around $36 an hour for some veterans of the school system, instead of the “discounted rate,” that some view as a “way to get teaching on the cheap.”
But while Black argues that more teachers may be encouraged to work extra hours with more pay, Pinellas Park Middle School Principal Dave Rosenberger said the demands that came with the multiple programs added this school year make teacher burnout a real concern. At Pinellas Park Middle, a majority of the 1,100 students take advantage of before and after school programs that can keep some at school from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., eating all three meals in the school cafeteria alongside their teachers. The extra programs are intended to change the culture at the school, which got a new principal and staff this year after years of failing school grades from the state. Yet, the grueling hours can take a toll on teachers, Rosenberger said.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive changes on campus, but there will be different points in the year where fatigue will just take over, and this was already a pretty draining school,” Rosenberger said. “Teaching is a very physical job, and now some teachers are having to wait until after 7 p.m. to plan for the next day and grade papers ... We kid that Mondays through Fridays we don’t have families.”
The college students can work with students on their class assignments before or after school hours, or during the Saturday Extended Learning Program. The tutors can also help with supplemental “enrichment programs.” The school district is using local college and university staff to identify good candidates for the job, and an application has been placed on the school district website.